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A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead

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The complete history of one of the most long-lived and legendary bands in rock history, written by its official historian and publicist–a must-have chronicle for all Dead Heads, and for students of rock and the 1960s’ counterculture. From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead flourished as one of the most beloved, unusual, and accomplished musical entities to ever grace American The complete history of one of the most long-lived and legendary bands in rock history, written by its official historian and publicist–a must-have chronicle for all Dead Heads, and for students of rock and the 1960s’ counterculture. From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead flourished as one of the most beloved, unusual, and accomplished musical entities to ever grace American culture. The creative synchronicity among Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan exploded out of the artistic ferment of the early sixties’ roots and folk scene, providing the soundtrack for the Dionysian revels of the counterculture. To those in the know, the Dead was an ongoing tour de force: a band whose constant commitment to exploring new realms lay at the center of a thirty-year journey through an ever-shifting array of musical, cultural, and mental landscapes. Dennis McNally, the band’s historian and publicist for more than twenty years, takes readers back through the Dead’s history in A Long Strange Trip. In a kaleidoscopic narrative, McNally not only chronicles their experiences in a fascinatingly detailed fashion, but veers off into side trips on the band’s intricate stage setup, the magic of the Grateful Dead concert experience, or metaphysical musings excerpted from a conversation among band members. He brings to vivid life the Dead’s early days in late-sixties San Francisco–an era of astounding creativity and change that reverberates to this day. Here we see the group at its most raw and powerful, playing as the house band at Ken Kesey’s acid tests, mingling with such legendary psychonauts as Neal Cassady and Owsley “Bear” Stanley, and performing the alchemical experiments, both live and in the studio, that produced some of their most searing and evocative music. But McNally carries the Dead’s saga through the seventies and into the more recent years of constant touring and incessant musical exploration, which have cemented a unique bond between performers and audience, and created the business enterprise that is much more a family than a corporation. Written with the same zeal and spirit that the Grateful Dead brought to its music for more than thirty years, the book takes readers on a personal tour through the band’s inner circle, highlighting its frenetic and very human faces. A Long Strange Trip is not only a wide-ranging cultural history, it is a definitive musical biography.


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The complete history of one of the most long-lived and legendary bands in rock history, written by its official historian and publicist–a must-have chronicle for all Dead Heads, and for students of rock and the 1960s’ counterculture. From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead flourished as one of the most beloved, unusual, and accomplished musical entities to ever grace American The complete history of one of the most long-lived and legendary bands in rock history, written by its official historian and publicist–a must-have chronicle for all Dead Heads, and for students of rock and the 1960s’ counterculture. From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead flourished as one of the most beloved, unusual, and accomplished musical entities to ever grace American culture. The creative synchronicity among Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan exploded out of the artistic ferment of the early sixties’ roots and folk scene, providing the soundtrack for the Dionysian revels of the counterculture. To those in the know, the Dead was an ongoing tour de force: a band whose constant commitment to exploring new realms lay at the center of a thirty-year journey through an ever-shifting array of musical, cultural, and mental landscapes. Dennis McNally, the band’s historian and publicist for more than twenty years, takes readers back through the Dead’s history in A Long Strange Trip. In a kaleidoscopic narrative, McNally not only chronicles their experiences in a fascinatingly detailed fashion, but veers off into side trips on the band’s intricate stage setup, the magic of the Grateful Dead concert experience, or metaphysical musings excerpted from a conversation among band members. He brings to vivid life the Dead’s early days in late-sixties San Francisco–an era of astounding creativity and change that reverberates to this day. Here we see the group at its most raw and powerful, playing as the house band at Ken Kesey’s acid tests, mingling with such legendary psychonauts as Neal Cassady and Owsley “Bear” Stanley, and performing the alchemical experiments, both live and in the studio, that produced some of their most searing and evocative music. But McNally carries the Dead’s saga through the seventies and into the more recent years of constant touring and incessant musical exploration, which have cemented a unique bond between performers and audience, and created the business enterprise that is much more a family than a corporation. Written with the same zeal and spirit that the Grateful Dead brought to its music for more than thirty years, the book takes readers on a personal tour through the band’s inner circle, highlighting its frenetic and very human faces. A Long Strange Trip is not only a wide-ranging cultural history, it is a definitive musical biography.

30 review for A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    The greatest epic I've read since War and Peace. Sort of joking about that but only sort of. A fantastic picaresque adventure featuring a cast of charismatic characters, supremely talented and obsessive yet somehow not very ambitious, dedicated to music/magic and drugs, surrounded by all sorts of supporting acts, from other bands and musicians to their manly, ribald crew and crazy, coke-fueled managers, to all the women they leave in their wake thanks to their "emotional cowardice," a phrase the The greatest epic I've read since War and Peace. Sort of joking about that but only sort of. A fantastic picaresque adventure featuring a cast of charismatic characters, supremely talented and obsessive yet somehow not very ambitious, dedicated to music/magic and drugs, surrounded by all sorts of supporting acts, from other bands and musicians to their manly, ribald crew and crazy, coke-fueled managers, to all the women they leave in their wake thanks to their "emotional cowardice," a phrase the author repeatedly uses toward the end to criticize Jerry, the non-leading leader of the band at the core of this. Not at all unwilling to call the boys out on their bullshit, including crap records and shows -- but also written by someone who worked for the band as their publicist for years and definitely understood every aspect of their ethos and relays it perfectly, for the most part -- I only felt things were very occasionally slightly discolored by the author's (I wanted to write "narrator's," as though the book were written by a figment of the band's collective consciousness) choice to refer to himself in the third-person as "Scrib" instead of simply opting for the less intrusive "I," and sometimes his conservative deployment of full-throttle lyrical description of the music didn't match my understanding of the songs or the playing, especially in terms of chords and notes et cetera (I won't go back through to search for examples -- just that sometimes I felt like the flights of ecstatic descriptive fancy were technically a little off). But the overall structure seemed perfect: imagine all the other ways all this info and all these anecdotes could've been presented. There must have been a temptation to present a loose improvisational structure, form matching content, form matching the formlessness of the band's best moments. But instead, for something so voluminous, containing such multitudes, it's linear, with regularly shaped and consistently sized chapters that felt like they're each about 25 pages, interspersed with interludes detailing an abstracted representative late-'80s/early-'90s stadium show (not a particular date), including most interestingly all the gear, cords, wires, lights, on and on, through the intermission and encore and post-show escape in a van to the airport to the next city's hotel by the time most fans have finally recovered enough to hit the road home. So many great bits like Bob Weir and some unknown black guitarist at the Guild tent at the Monterrey Pop Festival, having fun making semi-hollowbody guitars feedback, playing a little duet of howls -- and of course the unknown black guitarist turns out to be Jimi Hendrix. Or how Jimi was once backstage with his guitar all set to sit in but Mickey Hart, too deep into things on a certain psychedelic, forgot to give him the signal to come on stage and so he took off. The best bits were about how the songs came together, how Jerry's old bluegrass/folk friend from Palo Alto came back around with lyric sheets that saved them from having sub-mediocre psych lyrics like in "Cream Puff War" and really made the band what it is, as much as the long jams built on what Lesh called "bleshing," all five or six or seven players playing like the fingers on a hand, all unified. But of course there's constant infighting, cliques, power struggles, a psychedelic game of Survivor played over the course of a few decades. The progression is definitely not linear -- they rise and fall (rise and fall) throughout, all of it leading to the MTV hit in '87 that makes it impossible for them to play anywhere other than massive stadiums, lawless scenes that attract tens of thousands of ticketless revelers. I particularly got a little jolt when shows I attended were mentioned, like the show at the crumbling JFK Stadium in Philly (7/7/89) or the show in Cleveland in '93 I had a ticket for that was canceled thanks to a blizzard (the band spent most of the day at a nearby movie theater). And of course there's everything about Jerry's physical dissolution that started when he started smoking heroin during the '77 spring tour -- found it very odd that the significance of that tour wasn't really covered and realized that its absence probably gave Peter Conners the idea to write the excellent Cornell '77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall, which I read before this and loved, which ultimately is why I decided to read this, because I wanted to delve deeper into all this, a nostalgic trip for the soundtrack and experiences of my mid-to-late teenage years I'm more than happy to revisit and appreciate these days again from a completely different perspective, on the other side of so much other music listened to and loved and so many other bands seen live -- to quote promoter Bill Graham: they're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do. Highest recommendation to anyone who watched the documentary of the same name available now for streaming on Amazon and thought that a four-hour documentary felt kind of thin. I'll soon read the Garcia bio and then maybe read some more long-form non-fiction, which feels good these days.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Oliver

    Wow. What a long strange read it's been. This was the epic rock and roll band biography. I have to give it five stars because it inspired me to dig deeper into the Dead and the individual members music more than ever and as a result of that growing in my own understanding of music. If there is anything you learn about the Dead in this book is that it is all about the music. Really man, no matter how much psychedelics, fame, women, personal drama, hangers on and more came through there lives when Wow. What a long strange read it's been. This was the epic rock and roll band biography. I have to give it five stars because it inspired me to dig deeper into the Dead and the individual members music more than ever and as a result of that growing in my own understanding of music. If there is anything you learn about the Dead in this book is that it is all about the music. Really man, no matter how much psychedelics, fame, women, personal drama, hangers on and more came through there lives when they hit the stage the music always had the potential for magic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/a-... ...But the ugly mother sure could play! . . . Verily, he was wondrous gross, was this Pigpen, yet such was the subtle alchemy of his art that the more he profaned love and beauty, the more his grossness rendered him beautiful.... Pigpen was perhaps the main reason I never was on the bandwagon early on. Some bands frightened me and the Grateful Dead was one of them. The Deadheads were likely another reason as well. I never fit in and part of that was becaus https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/a-... ...But the ugly mother sure could play! . . . Verily, he was wondrous gross, was this Pigpen, yet such was the subtle alchemy of his art that the more he profaned love and beauty, the more his grossness rendered him beautiful.... Pigpen was perhaps the main reason I never was on the bandwagon early on. Some bands frightened me and the Grateful Dead was one of them. The Deadheads were likely another reason as well. I never fit in and part of that was because I came after. I was more attuned to The Beatles, The Band, Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Leo Kotkke, Jackson Browne,and Pink Floyd. ...The term “grateful dead” is about karma, and asserts that acting from soul and the heart guarantees that righteousness will result. It is about honor, compassion, and keeping promises… It wasn’t until my personal financial crash of 2009 that I began to be interested in The Grateful Dead. It was Jerry Garcia who won me over. For an entire summer his audiobook Jerry on Jerry was a mainstay every night before bed at my cabin in northern Michigan. His guitar playing and voice soothed my apprehension going forward and I relied on his digressive lead guitar playing to take me away to places I could only dream of. ...Yoga, meditation, biofeedback, astrology, the occult, all of these alternative spiritual approaches were simply LSD without the acid… Jerry Garcia was the essence behind my meditative life. From that day forward my daily hikes in the Huron National Forest and easy strolls along the shores of Lake Huron for the most part contained the soundtrack of the Grateful Dead playing in my head. ...Hippie antiviolence sentiments challenged sexual roles and contributed mightily to feminism and gay liberation. Perhaps more important than social developments was the evolution of the environmental movement in this country. If humans manage to avoid destroying the earth, it will be hippies and their heirs who will be significantly responsible… The late sixties and early seventies was a wonderful time to grow up in America. Aligned with so many others on what was wrong with our country and the world was both uplifting and hopeful. Recreational drugs were not only fun but spiritual. Nature was king. Communing with others in the natural world was beneficial to our survival. ...they had tasted the wisdom of Mozart, who reflected that it is much more difficult to play slowly… There is no doubt The Grateful Dead were onto something special. Sadly it took me too long to recognize their genius. But always better late than never. “When the Dead are playing their best,” wrote Hunter, “blood drips from the ceiling in great, rich drops. Together we do a kind of suicide in music which requires from each of us just enough information short of dropping the body to inquire into those spaces from which come our questions . . . about how living might occur in the shadow of certain death; and that death is satisfactory or unsatisfactory according to how we’ve lived and what we yield . . . Satisfaction in itself is nothing to be sought, it’s simply an excretion of the acceptance of responsibility.” The collaboration between Garcia and Hunter was one for the ages. Amazing body of work the two of them produced. Addiction ended it all too soon. Regarding Jerry Garcia:...Fame, thought his old friend Bob Seidemann, had turned him into a “Flying Dutchman” of loneliness, condemned to wander without intimacy. In particular, intimacy with a lover had always been a problem for him, dating back to his shattered and never-healed relationship with his mother… Jerry Garcia was a tragic character but certainly the coolest person I have ever witnessed on video while on stage, in interviews, or just listening on cd. There is a warmth he brings and shares, and it is hard to understand his failure at intimacy. It comes through his guitar with no strings attached. ...“[Dylan] didn’t know what he wanted to do,” thought Weir, but were anyone less adept at simple, direct verbal communication than the Dead, it might well have been Dylan. When the Dead broke up short rehearsals for long sessions with the TV to watch Bill Walton’s Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs, Dylan would sit on a car hood in the parking lot, withdrawn, while the hookers across the street whispered among themselves about him… In the many biographies of Dylan that I have read the common thread is these Dylan/Dead collaborations were never very good. Garcia was the huge Dylan fan and was the impetus behind the crazy idea of Dylan actually at one point joining the band. It was Dylan’s wish to be a part of this Dead phenomenon. ...Garcia, 1972: “I think basically the Grateful Dead is not for cranking out rock and roll, it’s not for going out and doing concerts or any of that stuff, I think it’s to get high . . . To get really high is to forget yourself. And to forget yourself is to see everything else. And to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe . . . [not] unconscious or zonked out, I’m talking about being fully conscious . . . the Grateful Dead should be sponsored by the government or something. It should be a public service, you know, and they should set us up to play at places that need to get high.” Years after the fact I believe Jerry was correct. The Grateful Dead belies any idea of normalcy and what it means to be in control. They were the epitome of chaos. Even to the end.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lawrence

    Instead of writing a review I will just cut and paste something I had written about my experience with the Grateful Dead. It's sums up the reason I bought this book in the first place. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< After my first Grateful Dead show at the Philadelphia Spectrum I was hooked and addicted to the people and scene surrounding the band and it's concerts. It was like no place I have ever known. Certainly not like any concert I have ever been to or even like any Instead of writing a review I will just cut and paste something I had written about my experience with the Grateful Dead. It's sums up the reason I bought this book in the first place. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< After my first Grateful Dead show at the Philadelphia Spectrum I was hooked and addicted to the people and scene surrounding the band and it's concerts. It was like no place I have ever known. Certainly not like any concert I have ever been to or even like any people I have ever met. The communal atmosphere was the most intriguing. I was a teenager yet was never judged and was treated like an adult and an equal always. Not common in my time to be treated anything other than a punk teenager. Mostly because I was a punk teenager! :) Everyone got along. Everybody danced. Everybody sung loud. Everyone was happy. Everyone was kind. Everyone was generous, even if they had very little. This all was a complete 180 degrees from what I was used to. It was awesome. And the music! Finally, I found people that shared my sick addiction to music. A small group of me and my friends were music fanatics but we were only a handful. Now I am surrounded by a whole tribe of people who had the same insatiable appetite for not only music but for live music and being there at live music. The stadiums and arenas.. being in the same space that the music was happening. That was something very profound to me as a youth. The energy from the band, energy from the other fans. All combined into one giant ball of positive energy that you can truly feel. It's indescribable actually and one of my favorite feelings I have ever felt. The Grateful Dead was all of this rolled into one vibe. And that vibe spilled into every aspect of my life from that moment on. It was grand. After Jerry died I was like many other's in search of a similar vibe to surround a band, a tour, a culture of fans. It was then that I went to see my first PHISH show. I'll never forget it. PHISH, to this very day have been my favorite band. I have seen them in concert over 30 times and am still waiting for that reunion to happen. (It will, soon) My favorite band, seeing them from the Mexico border to their final show in Coventry Vermont. The way I was changed my life perspective and general personality... All of it began was with my very first Grateful Dead show. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> So I decided to get this book to learn a better history of this amazing band that exposed me to this new way of living and thinking and being. The Dead was not my favorite band. Not even top ten actually. But they were the one band that launched this change of direction in me and my life. Ok having said that, this book is an amazing account of the dead from its roots to Jerry's death. It is very well written, funny and entertaining all the way through. McNally is close enough to the band to really write an honest account. If you're a dead head you gotta read this book. Its got it all. From beginning to end. I'd even recommend it to anyone that is into the psychedelic era, the 60's in general of just the history of a band that was a cultural phenomenon that will have it's mark on American music forever.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I’m a Dead Head, but I never got to see the Grateful Dead in concert. My older brother had an extra ticket for a show in June 1995 and offered to take me, but I had already scheduled my college orientation and went to that instead. I thought to myself at the time that I’d have a chance to see them some other time, because they’d always be out on tour, right? Turned out I was wrong. Jerry Garcia died 2 months after that on August 9, 1995, so I never got my chance. My brother has given me a hard t I’m a Dead Head, but I never got to see the Grateful Dead in concert. My older brother had an extra ticket for a show in June 1995 and offered to take me, but I had already scheduled my college orientation and went to that instead. I thought to myself at the time that I’d have a chance to see them some other time, because they’d always be out on tour, right? Turned out I was wrong. Jerry Garcia died 2 months after that on August 9, 1995, so I never got my chance. My brother has given me a hard time about that and has never let me live that down and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I did get to go to The Furthur Festival the next summer in 1996 (same brother had extra ticket and took me - pretty good brother) which featured Bob Weir and Ratdog, Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, and Bruce Hornsby, so that helped make up for my missing out. Maybe I’ll get to see a Dead & Company show some day... I enjoyed this history of the band and I learned a lot. One of the funniest stories McNally told is when the band members were in Washington D.C. in 1993 and were taken on a tour of the White House by Dead Head Al Gore (who was dressed in a three-piece suit), Jerry Garcia wore sweatpants that day. I just thought that was hilarious. The book does have a lot of details though, so be ready for that. The Grateful Dead were very unique in their sound. They combined a mix of Rock & Roll, Jazz, Blue Grass, and Country, and were unmatched in their ability to improvise and jam. They weren’t for everybody though, and I totally get that. The perpetual drug scene around the band, their disorganization, and just flat out weirdness turned a lot of people off, and I can completely understand why someone wouldn’t like their music. As for me, I consider myself to be the biggest Dead Head who never got to see them in concert. I can’t put a finger on why I like them as much as I do, but their music will always be special to me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    Widely considered to be the ultimate compendium for Grateful Dead history, Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead is an extremely dense book. It has taken me a long time to finish it, but it was extremely well-written and contained a lot of information that I did not know prior to picking it up. The book follows the Grateful Dead from their 1965 gig at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA to Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. McNally was the official band historian be Widely considered to be the ultimate compendium for Grateful Dead history, Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead is an extremely dense book. It has taken me a long time to finish it, but it was extremely well-written and contained a lot of information that I did not know prior to picking it up. The book follows the Grateful Dead from their 1965 gig at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA to Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. McNally was the official band historian beginning in 1980. There’s a lot to be found in this book, from musical trivia and lyrics, feuds between the band members and crew, a sense of what being a Dead Head is all about, etc. It is essentially an encyclopedia for the Dead. The book is presented mostly in chapter format, with an occasional “Interlude” thrown in. These Interludes do a good job of breaking up the flow of time for the reader, making it easy to read such a long book. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to read, but at times it felt like information overload - I mean, I love the Dead but I don’t need to know absolutely everything! But the good side of this is that if you want to know anything about the Dead, you can probably find it inside. Published in 2003, the book doesn’t have any information on The Dead’s reunification in 2009 (which I was fortunate to witness firsthand) or the musical developments of Phil Lesh and Friends, RatDog and The Other Ones in the mid-200s. But that’s to be expected, and considering this book is about the Grateful Dead, and not the side projects that happened after Garcia passed, there really isn’t anything missing. 4/5 Stars. 684 pages. Published 2003.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cal Desmond-Pearson

    I'm proud to classed as a Deadhead! This is ace book. I'll get down to writing a proper review when I get back from my long, strange trip! I'm proud to classed as a Deadhead! This is ace book. I'll get down to writing a proper review when I get back from my long, strange trip!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris J

    My motivation in reading McNally's history of the Dead stemmed from the curiosity I had regarding their first-half of the 1970s musical style. One who is familiar with the Dead knows their style during this era to be a mix of electric and acoustic, with a strong bent toward folk/rock as well as "cowboy" and Appalachian music. Sadly, few paragraphs within the 620 pages of text touched upon my points of curiosity. So, because of this, I ultimately felt disappointed with the book. There were other My motivation in reading McNally's history of the Dead stemmed from the curiosity I had regarding their first-half of the 1970s musical style. One who is familiar with the Dead knows their style during this era to be a mix of electric and acoustic, with a strong bent toward folk/rock as well as "cowboy" and Appalachian music. Sadly, few paragraphs within the 620 pages of text touched upon my points of curiosity. So, because of this, I ultimately felt disappointed with the book. There were other reasons as well: McNally's unwillingness (or inability) to speak beyond the surface level on anything regarding the Dead's philosophy toward life, music, drug use, life, spirituality, their place in rock, influences, etc. The book is essentially a shallow chronology with little real substance that would keep a mild-to-medium Dead appreciator such as myself engaged. I enjoyed learning the obvious - the origins of the band's name and artwork motifs, Garcia's biography (even that obviously essential element to the book is underwhelmingly treated), the rise of the band, etc. McNally worked for the Dead for over 20 years so he obviously had a lot of first-hand understanding of the various personalities and motivations of the band's members. Unfortunately, a sense of that does not truly come across in the course of 620 PAGES! By the end of the book I truly disliked every band member, including Garcia, and found them to be rather hollow. Their convictions as a band seemed to be few and inconsequential. Their convictions as individuals were more scant - essentially summed up by an attitude of self-absorption and self-destruction. When this is your attitude and you have come to no longer produce good music, you have transitioned into becoming inconsequential. The zenith of the band was 1970-1973. Before and after this they essentially sucked. I wouldn't suggest this book to anyone, not even a Dead Head.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justin Hampton

    Whew. This was a long, rambling, occasionally enlightening but ultimately shambolic and overlong tome on one of the '60s counterculture's most enduring institutions. In this way, it's not unlike the band at its most aimless and self-indulgent. Granted, there's a lot of ground here to cover, from the band's freewheeling early days to the many financial missteps to the band's obsession with sound and fidelity to a full-on cultural phenomenon which garnered the regard of much straighter business en Whew. This was a long, rambling, occasionally enlightening but ultimately shambolic and overlong tome on one of the '60s counterculture's most enduring institutions. In this way, it's not unlike the band at its most aimless and self-indulgent. Granted, there's a lot of ground here to cover, from the band's freewheeling early days to the many financial missteps to the band's obsession with sound and fidelity to a full-on cultural phenomenon which garnered the regard of much straighter business entrepreneurs. But it unfortunately doesn't focus on any of these very well. In particular, it really misses an opportunity to craft a truly moving narrative around the book's most intriguing character, Jerry Garcia. Far from being the wise, bearded father figure of the freak nation, Garcia emerges from the brief biographical sketches as a deeply troubled victim of the Dead's success, silently slaughtered over the decades by the demands of countless hangers-on and audience members, resented by bandmates and categorically denied of any solace or chance to heal through love or music, each of which betrays him over time. It is utterly heartbreaking to acknowledge that the scion of a huge underground family should die alone in his sleep in a detox center after a lifetime of horrendous choices caught up with him. A more skilled biographer, or perhaps one not so intimately linked to the Dead (McNally served as their publicist.), could have crafted this into a very powerful, if difficult, object lesson for an entire community. As it stands, there's plenty of unique tidbits in here that make it important for anyone trying to understand why the Dead meant so much for so long to their audience, but hard to wade through if you're not a Deadhead.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This trip makes for a great read, and it is a must read for anyone who has ever been a fan of the Grateful Dead. I was enjoying it so much, I skimmed through it a second time after finishing it. You don't have to be a Deadhead to get something good from this. McNally was a member of the Dead's inner circle (nicknamed "Scrib" for his writing), their longtime communications director, so he knows plenty about the band. "A Long Strange Trip" tells the whole story, beginning with Jerry Garcia's youth This trip makes for a great read, and it is a must read for anyone who has ever been a fan of the Grateful Dead. I was enjoying it so much, I skimmed through it a second time after finishing it. You don't have to be a Deadhead to get something good from this. McNally was a member of the Dead's inner circle (nicknamed "Scrib" for his writing), their longtime communications director, so he knows plenty about the band. "A Long Strange Trip" tells the whole story, beginning with Jerry Garcia's youth up to the band's dissolution not long after Jerry's tragic death. I won't attempt a recap here, because so much happens - a lot of it is amusing, but there are plenty of serious moments as well. The book moves along at a good clip and covers all the bases in the Dead's world, touching on the music, the personalities, the ups and downs, the conflicts, the changes, the romances, the politics, the relationship between the band and its fans, et cetera. The author views his subject with loving but clear eyes; he knew very well that the band had its dark sides, e.g. drug and alcohol abuse was a major problem. This is a classic rock read (and it is a crowded field.) If you have ever been curious about the GD and the stories behind this band's unique presence in American cultural life, you will surely enjoy this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laraine Ryan

    This is a documentation of every concert ever played and every thing of interest that might have ever been covered in the press. It's a good reference book for someone who wants to have access to all of that information. Not readable though. It might have been better as a historic timeline of all concerts and songs and notable happenings. There are many resumes of people too. Anyone who comes on the scene gets all their credits it. You know, the kind of thing you read on the program of a play you This is a documentation of every concert ever played and every thing of interest that might have ever been covered in the press. It's a good reference book for someone who wants to have access to all of that information. Not readable though. It might have been better as a historic timeline of all concerts and songs and notable happenings. There are many resumes of people too. Anyone who comes on the scene gets all their credits it. You know, the kind of thing you read on the program of a play you go to where each cast member get a paragraph that is really a list of parts they played before. We get told rather than shown. There was a hint of interest in Jerry having problems with women due to his mother. We get told this, but not shown. Jerry's love life is described as another list of women and children, not even all that extensive for a rock star, so that alone doesn't explain this mysterious woman problem. But that's the most depth we get into the person.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hoagie

    I didn't follow the Grateful Dead around the country and I only saw one live show. I'm a big fan of the Dead, however. I owned all of their recordings on vinyl at one point or another. I have enjoyed the improvisational freedom of their music since hearing it for the first time in 1967. Their influences (Jugband, Classic Rock, Jazz, Blues, Country and Bluegrass) have provided the starting point for many of my investigations into the various facets of American music. This book traces the Dead's h I didn't follow the Grateful Dead around the country and I only saw one live show. I'm a big fan of the Dead, however. I owned all of their recordings on vinyl at one point or another. I have enjoyed the improvisational freedom of their music since hearing it for the first time in 1967. Their influences (Jugband, Classic Rock, Jazz, Blues, Country and Bluegrass) have provided the starting point for many of my investigations into the various facets of American music. This book traces the Dead's history from the very beginning through Jerry Garcia's early demise. There are also individual biographical sketches of each band member from childhood. Although I enjoyed the book immensely, there is a lot of focus on personal and family aspects of the Dead that a lot of people who aren't ardent fans might not enjoy quite so much.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    I picked this 600-odd page up off my friend's bookshelf, and not being a Deadhead, still told myself I'd read up into the point where the Dead became famous, and then I'd stop. (I like reading cultural/subcultural histories, and I was more interested in learning the band's backstory than reading about their days as a cultural phenomenon.) I got farther than that, to around page 250, and then I just had to put it down. Basically all 600 pages might have well have read, "the Grateful Dead shit gol I picked this 600-odd page up off my friend's bookshelf, and not being a Deadhead, still told myself I'd read up into the point where the Dead became famous, and then I'd stop. (I like reading cultural/subcultural histories, and I was more interested in learning the band's backstory than reading about their days as a cultural phenomenon.) I got farther than that, to around page 250, and then I just had to put it down. Basically all 600 pages might have well have read, "the Grateful Dead shit gold". Really; the author was that sycophantic. There must be a more interesting, objective, varied history on the Dead out there. But I don't think I'm interested enough to seek one out.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Clarke

    Mostly, I've been re-reading this whilst listening to a lot of Dead shows in roughly chronological order (73-74 and 77, finishing returns IMHO thereafter). It's a compelling, tragic story that covers the last decade of the Dead in about a tenth of the space the first decade gets. But perhaps that's entirely proportionate. McNally was deeply embedded in the band's infrastructure as both historian and publicist for about 15 years but his perspective is unflinchingly warts and all. Garcia's daughte Mostly, I've been re-reading this whilst listening to a lot of Dead shows in roughly chronological order (73-74 and 77, finishing returns IMHO thereafter). It's a compelling, tragic story that covers the last decade of the Dead in about a tenth of the space the first decade gets. But perhaps that's entirely proportionate. McNally was deeply embedded in the band's infrastructure as both historian and publicist for about 15 years but his perspective is unflinchingly warts and all. Garcia's daughter, Annabelle, sums up a great deal with her remark at his funeral - "Jerry was a great man and a shitty father."

  15. 4 out of 5

    A.G. Pasquella

    An enjoyable trip. I definitely learned a lot about The Grateful Dead. McNally was The Dead's publicist so he was right in the thick of things for decades. Unfortunately it often seemed as though he was trying to cram in the names of everyone The Grateful Dead ever came into contact with-- in one sentence he mentioned seven people! Still, a fun read about a band I knew little about. An enjoyable trip. I definitely learned a lot about The Grateful Dead. McNally was The Dead's publicist so he was right in the thick of things for decades. Unfortunately it often seemed as though he was trying to cram in the names of everyone The Grateful Dead ever came into contact with-- in one sentence he mentioned seven people! Still, a fun read about a band I knew little about.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Lawson

    It felt a bit like reading someone's diary and I found the writing to be rudimentary at times so I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't meant to be a novel. And when McNally tried too hard to sound literary that was almost worse than when he just gave the story plain and simple. As an 'inside history,' it does what it promises and you're so sad to see Jerry go at the end. It felt a bit like reading someone's diary and I found the writing to be rudimentary at times so I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't meant to be a novel. And when McNally tried too hard to sound literary that was almost worse than when he just gave the story plain and simple. As an 'inside history,' it does what it promises and you're so sad to see Jerry go at the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Phenomenal. Gave me a whole new appreciation of one of the most important bands ever. Even if you're not a deadhead, and not necessarily into jamband music, I'd still recommend it for being so well-written and engrossing. You'll learn a lot about the 60's counterculture and the evolution of improvisational rock. Phenomenal. Gave me a whole new appreciation of one of the most important bands ever. Even if you're not a deadhead, and not necessarily into jamband music, I'd still recommend it for being so well-written and engrossing. You'll learn a lot about the 60's counterculture and the evolution of improvisational rock.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally (Three Rivers Press 2003) (780.92). Author Dennis McNally has the inside scoop here on the old hippie boys' club. My rating: 7/10, finished 2005. A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally (Three Rivers Press 2003) (780.92). Author Dennis McNally has the inside scoop here on the old hippie boys' club. My rating: 7/10, finished 2005.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Rusinak

    First of all, if you're a Dead fan, as most of my friends are, this is an absolute "must" of a read. McNally provides you with so many tales and back stories which I for one did not know. He provides us with an absolutely fascinating look into my favorite band during its formative years. While there are interspersed chapters throughout which deal with later day Dead of the 80's and 90's (which i honestly found a bit distracting), the book basically is chronological from Jerry's youth through the First of all, if you're a Dead fan, as most of my friends are, this is an absolute "must" of a read. McNally provides you with so many tales and back stories which I for one did not know. He provides us with an absolutely fascinating look into my favorite band during its formative years. While there are interspersed chapters throughout which deal with later day Dead of the 80's and 90's (which i honestly found a bit distracting), the book basically is chronological from Jerry's youth through the end of 1972. And this is where I have my biggest complaint about Long Strange Trip. It calls itself the "complete" history of The Grateful Dead but esentially leaves out 20 years of their lifetime. I'm hoping this was by design and McNally (maybe) plans on a Pt 2. which will include the mid and late 70's (MY time with the band) as well as the 80's and 90's. I don't however get the felling that this will be the case. But even with this shortcoming I'll say it again...if the Dead mean anything to you, this is a book which you ought to dive feet first into.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

    As the band's longtime publicist, Dennis McMally had a pretty intimate perspective for telling the story of the Grateful Dead, and he makes use of it in this comprehensive biography of the band, which travels from the group's early days in San Francisco to their sad farewell to Jerry Garcia. All of the band members get their time in the spotlight, but as the group's defining presence, Jerry is a key focus. McNally stretches back to Garcia's childhood, taking us through the loss of his father, his As the band's longtime publicist, Dennis McMally had a pretty intimate perspective for telling the story of the Grateful Dead, and he makes use of it in this comprehensive biography of the band, which travels from the group's early days in San Francisco to their sad farewell to Jerry Garcia. All of the band members get their time in the spotlight, but as the group's defining presence, Jerry is a key focus. McNally stretches back to Garcia's childhood, taking us through the loss of his father, his estrangement from his mother, an aimless adolescence, a failed stint in the military, and finally a full-bore obsession with music. Jerry started out looking to be an expert banjo picker in a bluegrass band, but a trip through the segregation-era south scared him off that audience and moved him in the direction of rock and roll instead. While giving lessons at a local guitar school, he fell in with a group of musicians that eventually included Pigpen McKernan (a local greaser kid), Bill Kreutzmann (a teen-group drummer), Bob Weir (a thrill-seeking rich kid), Phil Lesh (who went from music school to delivering the mail), and eventually Mickey Hart (a drum freak from out east). The stories of the band jelling are richly captured by McNally, with a nice dose of commune living, free love and San Francisco psychedelia. The band is so loosely organized, and unconcerned with pleasing crowds, that it's a wonder they made a living at all. But they do, persevering to travel the world, play thousands of jams and become millionaires. McNally is a big fan of the band, and at times his writing can be too credulous about their larger, cosmic, impact. It's hard not to scoff when you come across passages like the following: “In the course of the fall’s shows, the six of them took their new material and became the Grateful Dead. Playing together night after night while high as could be, they quite often found themselves in a state of grace, and they discovered they were on a mission from God, serving the universe and evolution.” But "A Long Strange Trip" is a warts-and-all treatment. McNally dedicates pages to the band's self-absorption, sharing how the same all-encompassing commitment to music that fueled their careers often made a shambles of their personal lives. He also lays out decades worth of shallow pranks on the road, bad, drugged-out shows and back-stabbings delivered via the grapevine. Jerry Garcia in particular seemed to have a damning tendency to duck and run at signs of trouble, and you come away feeling the band was largely self-centered and unreliable. The good shows were great, but there were a lot of tossed-off ones too, it seems, and when their scene fell on hard drugs there were some tragic casualties. Still, it's fascinating to read about the Grateful Dead's unlikely ascent, and it's nice to get a firsthand look at the circumstances behind some of their biggest successes. McNally focuses largely on the concerts and the music, leaving out much exploration of the Dead's ties to cultural of industry trends beyond the initial Haight-Ashbury scene. But their long career gives him plenty of fodder, even if the book may be overly detailed for a casual fan. In the end, Robert Hunter's "Ten Commandments of Rock and Roll," recorded here, just about sum it up. The group is far from perfect, but they were fiercely independent and in a class of their own. 1. Suck up to the Top Cats. 2. Do not express independent opinions. 3. Do not work for common interest, only factional interests. 4. If there’s nothing to complain about, dig up some old gripe. 5. Do not respect property or persons other than band property or personnel. 6. Make devastating judgments on persons and situations without adequate information. 7. Discourage and confound personal, technical and/or creative projects. 8. Single out absent persons for intense criticism. 9. Remember that anything you don’t understand is trying to fuck with you. 10. Destroy yourself physically and morally and insist that all true brothers do likewise as an expression of unity. Additional Quotes “Born Wolfgang Grajonza in Berlin in 1931, [Bill Graham] was sent to a Parisian orphanage ahead of the Nazis in 1939, soon joining sixty-three other children in a terrifying escape from Paris to Lisbon by foot, bus, and train. From Lisbon they traveled to Casablanca, from there to Dakar, then to New York. Only eleven children survived the trip. At that, he was luckier than many of his relatives, some of whom died, or his sister Ester, who endured and somehow survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In New York he grew up to be a pugnacious Bronx hustler, interested in sports, Latin dancing, and gambling. He waited tables and ran a gambling sideline in the Catskills, then served in Korea, where he earned one Bronze Star for bravery and two courts-martial for insubordination.” “Stephen Gasking, a power in the freak community, replied, ‘Bill, we’ve heard that rap many times before. You took the choice between love and money. You got the money—don’t come looking for the love.’”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hillbilly

    I once met a fellow who told me he had just read the worst book of his life and I quickly zoned out as he explained why. When he got to Chapter six, 45 minutes later I finally snapped "Why in the hell are you making me suffer through every horrible detail? Can we talk about a book you did like?" I feel this book was a little like that. There was an incredible amount of detail about their bad performances, while major events, incredible shows, deaths and important pieces we didn't know about were I once met a fellow who told me he had just read the worst book of his life and I quickly zoned out as he explained why. When he got to Chapter six, 45 minutes later I finally snapped "Why in the hell are you making me suffer through every horrible detail? Can we talk about a book you did like?" I feel this book was a little like that. There was an incredible amount of detail about their bad performances, while major events, incredible shows, deaths and important pieces we didn't know about were mentioned as an aside, if at all. There was no mention of Jerry's performance on 10/1/94 where he killed every single song, and late in the game changed the lyrics of So Many Roads just this once to Heal My Soul. No mention of Jerry's 50th birthday, and only little hints at the eerie "coincidences". For instance he did confirm that the Grateful Dead were playing Fire on the Mountain when Mt. St. Helens erupted but failed to mention Compton Terrace '94 when Jerry brought back Here Comes Sunshine for the first time since 19 and 74 and litcherally as he hit the first chord the black clouds, torrential rains and cool air were instantly replaced by sunshine and oppressive heat. He portrayed Bobby as a kid with an inferiority complex who became a bitchy, prima donna who held resentments worse than my third ex wife. He portrayed Phil and Mickey as perfectionist, virtuoso's who expected the same from everyone else and split most of their time between micro-pretension and macro-aggression. He said Jerry was the leader who would not lead as if anarchy were a dirty word. If he had "led" there would have been resentments that he was a controlling, power hungry, ego driven megalomaniac. He portrayed the fans of the 80's as consumer driven, Deader than thou, narcissistic, Nitrous Oxide sucking, arm swinging gate-crashers. Okay, so he nailed that one but really it was only a few jokers. Besides, every generation thinks they're better and more wise than the next. It's not like we stabbed people at Altamont, killed a pregnant movie star to start a race war, killed a president, his brother and Civil Rights Heros like your generation Dennis. For the most part things don't change that much, however we did start becoming inundated with twenty four hour news in the 80's so it appeared as if bad stuff was happening more often by the weaponized media to scare people back into submission after the revolution of the previous generation. It must be inherent in western society to feel the need to feel better than, terminally unique, and make invidious distinctions. I've seen it in every sub-culture I've witnessed including but not limited to business, social work, Mormons, Baptists, 12 step recovery fellowships, athletes, dudes and all their "conquests" and mean girls who for years I thought were giving me the elevator eyes until I realized they were looking at, judging and snarling at the eye candy holding my hand and laughing (most likely at my incredibly witty, relevant, and unique humor). To be honest I've rarely seen any of the boys since Brent died and just a handful since Jerry did. I guess I understand there was not much personal detail in this tome because I wouldn't want everyone to know every detail of my life. I'm sure it was a tremendous burden for Jerry. I have a hard enough time showing up and being "on" at work and home everyday and I don't have 50,000 kids watching, expecting me to blow their minds every night. I think he also left out the most important point so I actually wonder who he had access to and who spoke to him and how much truth they told him. I've heard Jerry and Phil say they set out to create a new form of art that relied heavily on audience participation. They wanted to co-mingle music, lights and dance and sister did they succeed at that. For one or two moments, many decades ago, I was able to combine my heart and soul with a band beyond description and 15,000 outcast, freaky friends into one blissful, tribal, soul-melting dance. I had no idea I'd still be alive, let alone deconstructing their songs, shows and lives 30 years later. It's like I tell my super aggressive power, sculpt, cardio, core, yoga instructors, "If I knew then I'd be in this class at 5:00 am I would have taken much better care of myself and not smoked so very, very many drugs." Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nog

    The author is the official historian for the Grateful Dead empire, so that fact needs to be considered on how the members are portrayed and what might have been left out. I read this book concurrently with "Garcia: An American Life" by Blair Jackson (BJ hereafter), who is basically a Dead Head who decided to write books about them. It was interesting to see how the same events were portrayed in the two books; at times, the stories are not consistent. This one does a pretty good job overall, althou The author is the official historian for the Grateful Dead empire, so that fact needs to be considered on how the members are portrayed and what might have been left out. I read this book concurrently with "Garcia: An American Life" by Blair Jackson (BJ hereafter), who is basically a Dead Head who decided to write books about them. It was interesting to see how the same events were portrayed in the two books; at times, the stories are not consistent. This one does a pretty good job overall, although the audience for this book is probably pretty much limited to Dead Heads who might be well-versed in the lore already, such as the Merry Prankster and Haight scenes, all the Sixties hippie history he relates is ground well trodden by the average DH. Lots of context in relation to the other SF bands of the time here, in contrast to BJ. Certainly the superlatives will make the occasional non-DH wonder at the level of objectivity used. McNally refers to himself in the third person as "Scrib" throughout the book; he was witness to various events yet he never uses the pronoun "I". He also intersperses the book with "Interludes", intended to give one a glimpse into various aspects of the Dead world as witnessed firsthand; these I found not very compelling and interrupted the flow of the book, so after a while I just skipped them. Only the last 100 of the 620 pages covers the last half (15 years) of GD history. Is it coincidental that my personal concert experiences were 3 in that time frame, as opposed to the roughly 20 in the first half? Or that 80% of their original material was written in those first 15 years, and only 20% in those last 15? Much of the 80's and 90's chapters address the various drug problems that various members struggled with, and the last 8 years with the crippling fame and the often troubling DH scenes at concert venues. One can't help but wonder whether McNally consciously spares us of the grim realities of those years, especially those of Jerry Garcia's declining health. BJ's book relates his health problems in depressing detail. Curiously, JG's long-time writing partner Robert Hunter disappears almost completely in those last 100 pages (they only wrote about a dozen tunes together in those last 15 years), as does Phil Lesh, one of the first founding members and a driving force in the early and middle years of the band's history. Of course, Lesh had some serious problems with alcohol, but there is really not a whole lot about that in this book (Phil's memoir is the place to go for insight). I believe that this official historian really does not emphasize two really disturbing negative forces in JG's life, and thus the negative effects on the GD: John Kahn's role in encouraging JG's repeated returns to the use of opiates, and Deborah Koon, at the end of JG's life. Her behavior after his death makes one wonder at how many episodes of her anger occurred, and how many included violence. At the very least, she comes across as manipulative and just mean, and since McNally (like BJ) is loathe to get too negative with anyone, one really wonders. It seems to me that the band's creativity was not adversely affected by ample use of psychedelics; but when cocaine, alcohol, and heroin entered the picture, the band experienced a serious and depressing decline. It's ironic that their greatest popularity occurred so long after their best work. The reviewer "featherbear" does not remember what the Fillmore East was called previously -- it was the Village Theater, which was easily found via the excellent index in the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I am a casual Dead fan but recently have been drawn in while learning to play and sing some of their songs: Ripple, China Doll, Bertha, Box of Rain, Uncle John's Band. My curiosity was further piqued by the Dead-centric "Psychedelic Posters" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. To learn more about the band and its legacy I picked up this book on Goodreads' recommendation. I was dismayed to learn that the author served as the Dead's publicist during the mid-late Jerry era. That did not bode well for I am a casual Dead fan but recently have been drawn in while learning to play and sing some of their songs: Ripple, China Doll, Bertha, Box of Rain, Uncle John's Band. My curiosity was further piqued by the Dead-centric "Psychedelic Posters" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. To learn more about the band and its legacy I picked up this book on Goodreads' recommendation. I was dismayed to learn that the author served as the Dead's publicist during the mid-late Jerry era. That did not bode well for a balanced or thorough bio. But Dennis McNally is also a biographer of Jack Kerouac. He is up to the task of describing and evoking the 1960s Bay Area beat/folk/jug band/psychedia/hippie scene with such figures as Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Timothy Leary interlaced with Jerry and the Dead. His writing is concrete and vivid (albeit a bit pompous) with dazzling re-creations of dozens of long-lost encounters and, yes, "happenings." The first 100 pages are a savvy you-are-there recounting of this scene. They read more like intellectual history than a typical rock-fan book. The discussion of arcane philosphical constructs must leave a few Deadhead scratching their dredlocks. Then LSD comes into the picture and this becomes a book about taking drugs. The Dead and their cohorts must have ingested more drugs than food. A good trip becomes a bummmer fast. I tuned out and dropped out save scanning for key points. What creative circumstances and energy went into the back-to-back masterpieces "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty"? How did Jerry, the passive leader, handle trying to kick Bob Weir and Pigpen out of the band? What is 'China Doll' about? The answers are there, satisfyingly rendered, And now I am done with "A Long Strange Trip." My own reassessment of the Dead: the jam-band tag is unfortunate. Although Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, and Bill Kreutzman are very good musicians, they are not good enough to sustain 45-minute C-chord jams. Trained in contemporary classical composition and jazz, Lesh led the band into Space Music, but he was not successful in competing with his hero Stockhausen or his contemporary Steve Reich. They were inspired by John Coltrane but do not ascend to anything near that level. And none of them can sing a lick. What makes them rise above the jam-band scene they spawned is some excellent songwriting, which at its best rivals Bob Dylan and the Band in telling the memorable stories of losers toiling in coal mines and freight yards. McNally does a great job recalling the Berkeley folk scene that led Garcia and Robert Hunter to pen such timeless songs as "Cumberland Blues." The Dead's reputation may rest on Americana, no psychedelia.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric M

    It is interesting comparing McNally's account to Rock Scully's. There are definitely some inconsistencies, most notably for me being the retelling of Kreutzmann's outburst in Paris where he smashed a window. According to Scully it happened in their Europe '72 tour out of frustration in not being able to pick up any women, while according to McNally it was in a later Europe tour in '74, motivated by desperation in becoming lost. Another notable difference is how Owsley was manufacturing the Sunsh It is interesting comparing McNally's account to Rock Scully's. There are definitely some inconsistencies, most notably for me being the retelling of Kreutzmann's outburst in Paris where he smashed a window. According to Scully it happened in their Europe '72 tour out of frustration in not being able to pick up any women, while according to McNally it was in a later Europe tour in '74, motivated by desperation in becoming lost. Another notable difference is how Owsley was manufacturing the Sunshine acid back when the band was living with them. Anyway, McNally's book is exhaustive in its minute details, not shying away from the Dead's esoteric business practices, which I have mixed feelings about being privy to. I guess ultimately I'm glad they were included. One major gripe I have with both Rock Scully and Dennis McNally's accounts for the Dead is taking their subjective opinions as objective. Everyone has their own idea about what the best album or live show was. I think instead of saying "they played like crap on X day" they could have instead focus on how the band members themselves felt. Also everyone seems to be so down on Aoxomoxoa for some reason (including GD themselves) which sort of perplexes me because it's such a fantastic record. Oh well. McNally was really into the synchronicity thing, and was really into taking note of outside events that paralleled things going on with the band. While such information is good to know, I think he perhaps might have overemphasized some of their connections. Of course, one can't know for sure without any direct quotes. Which is why I generally have come to prefer the method of interweaving of interviews, like with Please Kill Me. It is only natural for Rock Scully, in his book Living With the Dead, to have spent more time talking about the heavy drug use, having been an addict himself (his very sobering confession regarding his negative influence on Jerry was commendable). McNally's drug talk emphasized heavily on the mind expanding nature of LSD, while shying away from the heroin which is a balance I ultimately find preferable. Overall a well put together book, although the Interlude chapters seemed a bit out of place at times. On several occasions they retreaded ground that had already been covered which was a little bit annoying. It is such an exhaustive account, yet also made me realize how impossible it is to really fit the whole story into one book. I feel that further reading is in order somewhere down the line. Maybe I'll read Mickey Hart's or Phil Lesh's autobiography next time. 3.75/5

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jammin Jenny

    I love the Grateful Dead and loved this backstage look at the life of the Grateful Dead from their beginnings through their entire long strange trip. I used to follow them a bit when I was in college, yes I was a "deadhead", and it's fun to remember those times. I love the Grateful Dead and loved this backstage look at the life of the Grateful Dead from their beginnings through their entire long strange trip. I used to follow them a bit when I was in college, yes I was a "deadhead", and it's fun to remember those times.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Whatever brownie points McNally acquired with Garcia with his excellent book on Kerouac, he squandered in this book when he inserted himself into it as a major figure (aka, "Scribe") rather than focusing solely on the history of the band (this, after all, was to be their long awaited "official biography"). While he indeed did so, there was not an awful lot said that I hadn't previously heard through other sources. It is infinitely distracting and irritating for the author of a biography to prete Whatever brownie points McNally acquired with Garcia with his excellent book on Kerouac, he squandered in this book when he inserted himself into it as a major figure (aka, "Scribe") rather than focusing solely on the history of the band (this, after all, was to be their long awaited "official biography"). While he indeed did so, there was not an awful lot said that I hadn't previously heard through other sources. It is infinitely distracting and irritating for the author of a biography to pretend they are themselves a person of interest for the person interested in buying a biography about people they're actually interested in knowing more about! I suppose one might shrug and say "well, blame that on acid" -but, ultimately, that's what wrecked this book for me. The portions regarding the 1972 Europe tour were interesting, but I passed it along to a younger friend with regrets. "Official biography" my eye.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steven Selkirk

    It took me forever to read this book! Definitely something only a Deadhead can truly appreciate. I wish the book spent more time on the late Seventies. This is a monumental time in their live performances and only lasted a part of one chapter? Also, there is way too much of a focus on the early years. I understand that there was a need to know where the world's greatest touring band found it's sound, but it doesn't make for a balanced read. Still, if you are looking to find out more about the band It took me forever to read this book! Definitely something only a Deadhead can truly appreciate. I wish the book spent more time on the late Seventies. This is a monumental time in their live performances and only lasted a part of one chapter? Also, there is way too much of a focus on the early years. I understand that there was a need to know where the world's greatest touring band found it's sound, but it doesn't make for a balanced read. Still, if you are looking to find out more about the band, you will. I ended up listening to shows that corresponded with the time period I was reading. This was a great way to experience the book. I'm more of a 72-74 kind of head, with a little 77 thrown in for good measure. This book forced me to listen to more sixties and nineties dead and I know have a deeper appreciation for some of the shows from the 68-71 the period. Overall a well-written documentation of the formation and demise of my favourite band.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Blixt

    McNally has all the scholarly chops of a true historian -- as he should since he earned a PhD in History at UMass Amherst before started following the band in 1978. At that point, DESOLATE ANGEL, his dissertation-turned standard bio of Kerouac had just been published. Although he spent the next 30 years with band -- half of that with Garcia -- and has more stories than he will ever have time to time tell, this book maintains its academic rigor throughout . . . so much so that you may find it ted McNally has all the scholarly chops of a true historian -- as he should since he earned a PhD in History at UMass Amherst before started following the band in 1978. At that point, DESOLATE ANGEL, his dissertation-turned standard bio of Kerouac had just been published. Although he spent the next 30 years with band -- half of that with Garcia -- and has more stories than he will ever have time to time tell, this book maintains its academic rigor throughout . . . so much so that you may find it tedious unless you like that kind of thing and never tire of Dead. I fall into both caregories. McNally is also a truly good guy, with enormous integrity and good sense. The kind of guy, and the kind of writer, you want on your side.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbikat60

    I can see that McNally tried to be objective but you can clearly see the disdain that he had for Rock Scully and Sam Cutler. I find that a bit unfair being that his idol Phil Lesh was quite the garbage head and he glossed over that fact. Otherwise, he wrote an interesting and insightful book. I have a little more respect for Bob Weir as a musician after reading this book. I have to read Steve Parish's book. I believe it will give me the needed balance between all the books I've read about the Gr I can see that McNally tried to be objective but you can clearly see the disdain that he had for Rock Scully and Sam Cutler. I find that a bit unfair being that his idol Phil Lesh was quite the garbage head and he glossed over that fact. Otherwise, he wrote an interesting and insightful book. I have a little more respect for Bob Weir as a musician after reading this book. I have to read Steve Parish's book. I believe it will give me the needed balance between all the books I've read about the Grateful Dead so far. This book is an excellent piece of history. I've learned so much about America besides learning about the magical times that helped create the Grateful Dead. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    it was alright but the author put stuff very slow and i couldn't really connect with it so i stopped reading it i only got about one forth way through it. the reason i didn't really like the book is the author would take things way to slow then come up with something random i just couldn't comprehend. i am sure if i wasn't rushed to finish it like we are here i would be able to finish the book with a full understanding of it.i now know that the book i pick has to be at least under 300 pages for it was alright but the author put stuff very slow and i couldn't really connect with it so i stopped reading it i only got about one forth way through it. the reason i didn't really like the book is the author would take things way to slow then come up with something random i just couldn't comprehend. i am sure if i wasn't rushed to finish it like we are here i would be able to finish the book with a full understanding of it.i now know that the book i pick has to be at least under 300 pages for me to finish in the right amount of time. i will probably buy the book when im like 67 or something and read it and enjoy it like no other.

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